Little Free Libraries

The beginning of summer means many things, but probably most commonly it is a season when people think about fun and recreation. While there are countless ways to recreate, one popular pastime this time of year is reading. This pastime is so popular that in fact there are countless lists and recommendations out there for your "summer reading" pleasure. Whether you read on the beach, at the lake, your local park, or just sitting by an open window there is something wonderful about the rhythms of reading a book in summer. As you consider acquiring a book for your summer reading, I am delighted to inform you about a new option of where to find your next summer read, one of which you may not be aware. In addition to your local library and your local bookstore, there may be an additional option right on the very block where you live. This new option is known as a "Little Free Library". These "Little Free Libraries", whose motto is always, "Take a book, return a book," are springing up everywhere and as you learn more about this new trend, you will understand why.

Allow me to share a little history about the origin of this new offering. In 2009, Todd Bol, of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model, seen in the photo above, of a schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a retired teacher. His mother loved reading and as a tribute to her he filled his handmade structure with books and placed it on a post in his front yard. He put a sign on the structure that said, "Free books" and it was an instant hit with his neighbors. They loved borrowing the books and soon found that they also loved the community it created as neighbors spontaneously met at the this local, impromptu library.

The idea of creating more of these libraries caught on when in 2010 Rick Brooks, a youth and community development educator from the University of Wisconsin in Madison heard of about Bol's idea. Brooks and Bol together dreamed of the potential impact of this new grass roots effort, to promote both reading and community wellness simultaneously. Just four years later, what started out with a few "little boxes of books," has now grown to over 15,000 "Little Free Libraries" across the globe, each one as unique as the collection of books it contains. You can learn more about the latest developments in what is now an international movement by visiting their website Be sure to check out the map section of their website to find a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or perhaps you will want to visit the section that tells you how to build one yourself!

There are so many wellness aspects that come to mind when I reflect on this fun phenomenon, but I can only touch a on few briefly in the context of this column. Reading itself, of course, nourishes wellness on so many levels--emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social. It stimulates the heart, soul, and mind all at once. Add to this the experience of community, of neighbors meeting neighbors and sharing both ideas and books with one another and you have an unbeatable wellness combination.

My church has a "Little Free Library" in front of it, as does my neighbor's house directly across the street, both created by folks who wanted to share the love of reading with others. There are several more within a few blocks of where I live, all of which are home made by someone as well. Perhaps that's the most inspiring part of this whole story. Every one of the over 15,000 Little Free Libraries was created by someone who simply wanted to sow seeds of literacy and community in their little corner of the world.

This is exactly how we promote wellness in the world as well. We sow seeds in our little corner of the world, one thought, one word, one deed, one book, one person, one conversation, and one Little Free Library at a time.